The music of Tuscon, Arizona songwriter Gabrielle Pietrangelo is inspired by the open spaces and big skies of the southwest where she grew up. Her new solo album On My Way Back Home comes after working on several collaborative projects including the Silver Thread Trio, and brings her full circle to simpler guitar arrangements, open tunings and “melodies that emphasize the shimmering quality of her voice.” Besides guitar, vocals and harmonies, Pietrangelo also plays ukulele and piano, and has help from Thoger Lund on double bass. This album was recorded and mixed with Jim Waters at Waterworks Recording Studio in Tuscon using Logic 9, and mastered by Jim Blackwood.
Pietrangelo has a sweet, high pitched singing voice which reminded me of Nanci Griffith, Stevie Nicks, or even (going way back) Melanie. Her songs feel like classic folk tunes, and the recording quality is studio-pristine, if a tad heavy on the reverb. She’s quoted as saying: “I hope that these songs can be a helper to those walking their own path to transformation and healing."
“What The Darkness Knows” starts us off with double-tracked acoustic guitars picking a descending pattern with Pietrangelo singing harmony with herself. This song appears to be about a disappointing lover or friend who refuses to take ownership of the hurt they’ve caused. “If you could see / Then you’d truly believe / And finally face the heart you’ve broken.” For the choruses, Pietrangelo adds some lovely piano figures.
“Summer Rain” is an especially beautiful love song with achingly intimate vocals and sweet guitar picking. “I’ll hold you when you're lying in your bed / I’ll soothe you when you're seeing scarlet red / I’ll feed you when you've nowhere left to turn / I’ll love you like you've never known your worth.”
“He’s Got A Broken Wing” feels more like folk country with a lead vocal venturing into Dolly Parton World. In this song, the singer appears to be gently taunting herself with the inevitable questions after a breakup. “Who's loving you now? / Who's holding your hand? / At night when you can't stand / The sound of the demons knocking on your front door.” Just under three minutes, this song is a true gem. “Way To Fly” again has a country feel and makes full use of Pietrangelo’s guitars, piano, ukulele and multi-tracked vocals.
The title track “On My Way Back Home” may be the first song with Thoger Lund’s double bass. Compositionally this is a sweet but effortlessly complex tune, casting an upbeat glow on the entire collection. “I’m coming home changed… I’ve been digging deep / I’ve been hearing the words / That the mountains and the rivers speak.”
“Morning Bells” is another close up, intimate vocal performance with a melody vaguely reminiscent of the Stones’ “Angie.” Some especially nice piano here as well. “Listen To The River” ends the collection with a slow-picked lament you might find recorded by Sony artist Mary Lou Lord: simple, heartfelt, moving. “I listen to the river when she's dry / Late summer whispers in the trees / Singing the song of I'm sorry / Telling the tale of goodbye / Giving me strength to uncover the truth that I / Can finally let you go.”
This short but exquisite collection was something my heart needed to take in, without really knowing why.
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